Comparison of Digital Storytelling apps- Puppet Pals VS Toontastic

The Grade 1 students will be focusing on the Central Idea that “Solutions to problems can be found through cooperation.”  This topic lends itself for integrating technology into this Unit of Inquiry (UOI), where the students will be asked to come up with digital stories that show the students’ creative side in solving problems within their group.

Here is a simple script that I created in order to create my own story using both Puppet Pals and Toontastic. I believe that for students to have success when creating digital stories, planning and writing out a logical script or outline is the key no matter what app / technology is used!

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Not only are digital stories a great way for shy and withdrawn students to express their creativity and ideas, but also, they enable other students to practice their storytelling skills at their own pace and comfort level.

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 9.40.50 AM.pngFor this UOI, Puppet Pals HD (Director’s Pass $3.99US) is an easy app that students can use to create their own problems and solutions through story telling.

With the paid version, students can take photos of each other to use as characters, and they can even customize their own background by selecting photos from their Camera Roll.

 

Here is a video I created as an example using Puppet Pals to show conflict resolution during recess:

Note: students can also use action figures / lego figures.

Another app that is suitable for storytelling is Toontastic HD.   Some difficulties I find when using Puppet Pals is that students can end up rambling if they don’t write up a script beforehand.  Therefore, what I like about Toontastic is the Beginning/Middle/End prompts that are sectioned for ease of use.   Students can take their time to record each part of the story, step by step.  Then, they can re-enact the story using the characters provided.

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Although Toontastic HD does not allow students to use customized characters from their camera roll, it does enable students to put their faces on the characters.  Also, unlike Puppet Pals whose characters cannot move, Toontastic characters have moving body parts.

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-11-54-27-amToontastic does not allow a direct import of photos as background from the Camera Roll.  Users can, however, draw their own background which might be difficult for younger students.  To customize my own background, I painted the backdrop in green, and then used Green Screen by DoInk to incorporate my chosen photo as the background.  This, again, might be complicated for younger users.

Here is before the editing using Green Screen by DoInk

 

Here is the after edit:

In summary, here is a comparison of Toontastic HD and Puppet Pals:

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In conclusion, I feel that Toontastic has a more structured format that may be good with classes whose students need more guidance and prompts.  However, if classroom teachers spend enough time to plan, write and edit students’ scripts and dialogues, stories created using Puppet Pals would turn out just as logical and complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sticking with basic Apple Apps- Integrating Math with “Numbers”

Although there is a ton of very specific Math apps, you will find that ICT integration doesn’t take a costly app to be effective. It is good to take a look at some of the basic Mac apps that you already have on your iPad, and see how you can use them to enhance your Math lessons.

“Numbers” is one that I find to be user friendly and easy for students when  for example turning data into graphs. At the start of last year when I was working with G4s, I introduced a typing website www.typing.com so they could bookmark it and practice typing.  Trouble was, I wanted to integrate typing with what they were learning in Math: figuring out mean, medium and mode, as well as creating graphs.

I distributed the following chart to students, and had them complete each lesson 10 times (very easy, beginner level task that took less than a minute to complete).  Then, they calculated the mean and median.  screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-3-10-42-pmAfterwards, the following lesson turned our data into graphs on Numbers.  A great feature of Numbers is students can select from various type of graphs, so it is a “teaching moment” to discuss what type of graph was most suitable to demonstrate progress over time.

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Here is the criteria of a good graph:

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Although there are certainly Math apps that converts data into beautiful graphs, Numbers was more than sufficient for the purpose of a G4 lesson.  It allows students to input data, create different types of graphs. Numbers could also potentially be used during other Math units later on during the year. All in all, it is a versatile app that allows for ICT integration and it isn’t restricted to one specific feature like many Math apps that are available in the market.

G2 Poetry using Google Slides

The Grade 2 students have been writing different types of poems as part of their “How we express ourselves” Unit of . I thought this was a great opportunity to introduce Google Slides as a collaboration tool. Google Slides would allow students to create their acrostic poems digitally, and compile an anthology together as a class. Students would be inspirrd by others’ poems while writing their own, and the anthology could be easily shared with parents when it is completed.

1. To get started, I created a simple template of the Google anthology for all my classes, and dropped it in a folder that’s already been shared with students from previous projects.

2. To clear up confusions that might
happen if I let students choose their own slide to work on, I pre-typed their names on individual slides so they’d know exactly which one to use.

Google Anthology- blank slide

3. I then typed up my sample acrostic poem using my name.

 

In class…

4.   Students located the Google anthology in the “Shared with me folder”

5.  I reminded students on how to write an acrostic poem and showed them my example.

At this point, it’s crucial to explain some rules when working collaboratively on Google apps.  Since students are typing simultaneously on a single presentation, they are encouraged to view others’ poems, but not allowed to edit their classmates’ slides.  They must work on their own slide only.

6.  I did a quick demo on changing font colours and size, adding images and shapes on Google Slides.

7.  To help Grade 2 students get ideas on words that begin with letters of their names, I showed them this Adjectives vocabulary word-list from a-z from Enchanted Learning.

8.  Finally, the students began writing!

Here are some of the acrostic poems that they wrote:

Oscar

 

Sienna Perry

 

 

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Here is another acrostic poem that a student wrote of their choice:

 

 

 

 

From Hollywood right in your home: Creating Green Screen videos for your baby

Green Screen technology isn’t just for Hollywood stars.  My students loved creating green screen videos for their class projects.  In the past, we have made videos related to all sorts of topics studied class.

Here is an imaginary “Magic School Bus” video that brought my students on a whirlwind adventure to famous landmarks from around the world:

Because of my experience with green screen technology, I knew it’d be lots of fun creating these videos for my baby.  So the other day, I decided to try it out using the app Green Screen by Do Ink.  

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Here are the steps:

1. Pick a theme!  For this theme, I’m using the Japanese festival since I want Kai to be wearing the Japanese yukata.

2.  Choose a background picture / photo.  I just found this on Google Image Search.

matsuri

 

3.  Prepare a big piece of green cloth or paper (any colours work too as long as the baby isn’t wearing the same colour as the background)

2.  Place your baby gently on top.  Or if you have a toddler or an older child, you might need to set up the colour paper on the wall.

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(Source:  http://greyhouseharbor.com/tag/kids-party-ideas/  This Mom created a party using green screen.  She has some pretty cool photos!)

3.  Start taking videos / photos until you are satisfied with your baby’s pose

For Kai’s video, I put the green paper on the floor since he cannot sit or stand yet.

Next, you will need to transfer those videos to your iPad.

4.  Open up the Do-Ink app

5.  Select the + button to create a new project1.png

There are three rows where you can add videos / images.

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6.  In the bottom row, insert your background photo by clng on the +  Select the photo from your Camera Roll

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7.  In the middle row, insert your video by clicking on the + again.  Select your video.

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For the rest of the steps, it might be easier just watching this short tutorial:

Note:  If you want a green-screen photo rather than a video, just take a screenshot!

Ta-da!

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Isn’t it simple?  Green screen technology allows you to take your babies to many cool locations without the hassle. You can also let your imagination run wild, and transform your baby into superheros, arctic explorers, astronauts, weather forecast announcers, ancient gladiators…the list goes on.

Here is another one of Dorae-Kai:

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 I had so much fun creating these wonderful memories with my baby, and I’m sure one day he will have a good laugh looking at his silly self …thanks to his silly mom!

Top tech tools Moms (or even Dads) should use

And no, this post is not about what apps moms should download for their babies to use on the iPad.  Many of the apps mentioned in this blog are probably already familiar to you.  However, the way I use these apps are specifically for taking care of my baby.  I will share my top 5 apps and elaborate on them.

Evernote App

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I use Evernote for everything.  I cannot survive with it.  Evernote is a simple but powerful note app that I use it to store my favorite recipes, create t0-do lists, take notes on student learning, and to keep track of receipts.  Since Kai was born, I’ve been using Evernote to document our everyday life together.  Whatever I type on Evernote syncs across my devices (Mac Book, Samsung phone, iPad), so this makes it even easier for me to switch between my role as a teacher, and Mom.  At school, when I brainstorm ideas for my lessons on Evernote, these notes will appear on my iPad later when I’m home.  At home, when I’m documenting my day with Kai but interrupted by other tasks, I can continue to add photos later on on my Macbook after he sleeps.  My entires are brief, but it’s my way of recording how I spend time with him, so I can look back at these fond memories later when he is older.

 

Google Calendar

I use Google Calendar to keep track of Kai’s doctor appointments, important dates, and baby milestones!  If you are not familiar with Google Calendar, you can actually create different calendars within it to for different purposes.  For instance, I have a calendar for Kai, one for work, and one for pregnancy (when I was pregnant).  I also shared Kai’s calendar with my husband so he also knows all the important dates and major milestones for our baby.

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This video shows how I am using Google Calendar:

Pic Collage

I’m sure many people already use this, but Pic Collage is just a great app for me to create weekly collages for my baby.  I tend to go a little crazy with photos, so Pic Collage allows me to  choose my favorite ones and arrange them artistically on one page.  I then print them out and post them in Kai’s room or share with family and friends.

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YouTube

I upload most of my baby’s videos on YouTube after they have been saved onto my Computer (in Dropbox).  As a matter of fact, I have a private YouTube playlist for Kai.  The videos on this playlist can only be viewed by people whom I share the links with.  For videos that are over 3 minutes long, it makes it easier to share with others because I can just copy and paste the link, and they do not need to download the videos and use up their storage.

Another thing I like to do on YouTube is to store all my favorite songs on one single playlist.  When Kai is having tummy time, I don’t have to keep searching for different songs one after another, but can play all my selected songs one by one. (I only let Kai listen to the songs on YouTube rather than let him see the screen though)

Here is how you can create your own playlist:

Feed Baby App

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I highly recommend  using this app as soon as your baby is born.  I liked it so much I actually paid for the full version.  On the side, you can see all the features:  Feeds, Diapers, Sleeping, Pumpings, etc.

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I initially used this app to keep track of how long I was breastfeeding on each side since the timing is an indication of how much the baby is taking in.  As you can see, there is the L and R icon that stand for left and right breast.  You press the icon when you start breastfeeding and stop it when you are finished. Simple!

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Later on when I began pumping, I needed to record the time that I last pump. In the full version of the app, you can actually set a notification to remind yourself to pump every 3 hours, which is super useful because I often get so busy that I wait too long to pump.

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When I switched Kai to bottles, I use the same app to keep track of his feed intervals as well.

The most important feature on this app for me, is to record the time of my baby’s nap.  I am a teacher so I love structure and routines, so when I first tried to get Kai to sleep in his crib, I was adamant in making sure I record exactly how long each nap is.  It even helps you calculate your baby’s total hours of sleep each day.

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In the evening, I write down Kai’s feed and nap information on paper, which is posted in the kitchen.  I honestly think keeping track of your baby’s nap is very important because it helps you find his sleep pattern.

Here is my chart:
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I know most of my friends are not super tech savvy.  But I really believe, in the long run, learning how to use technology will help you cut through the clutter of everyday life.

My Selfie-Stick Project

The selfie stick is a fantastic tool for anyone who wants a photo of themselves without having to trouble others.  It’s especially important for Moms to use the selfie stick because …

 

After reading this blog http://www.boredpanda.com/selfiettes/ I thought that a selfie stick would best capture what it is like to be a first time Mom..giving a snapshot of the everyday mundane tasks of taking care of a 4 month old. Please note that while the blog from boredpanda has a humorous tone, mine is… just a normal documentation of my life 🙂

Here it is:

12:49am:  Baby K is snoozing in his crib and I’m ready for an unpredictable night (praying he doesn’t wake up a dozen times)

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3:48am:  Baby K wakes up and I nurse him in the dark.

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7:29am-  Baby K makes noise at around 7:30am…very thankfully not 6:50am.  I quickly snap a photo before lifting  him up and putting him in my own bed, hoping he’d play while I sleep for a couple more minutes.

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7:40am-  Diaper change!  Then I pump for his next feed.2016-03-17 07.41.06.jpg

 

8:20am-  I take Baby K down for a stroll early in the morning to soak up a bit of the morning sun.  I enjoy a drink at the clubhouse while Baby K entertains himself with his bff- Mr. Balloon.

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9ish am- As soon as I get back to the house, I wash all the bottles and pumps while Baby K is in the swing.2016-03-17 09.24.22.jpg

 

10am-  Baby K takes his first nap which is supposed to be the longest nap of the day.  I get to use my computer… to Google solutions for baby-related issues… from “how to boost milk production,” “green poop,” “sleep association” to the latest being “sleep regression”!  Google is truly my mentor.

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11am Tummy time

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Followed by milk

At this point I thought OK I’m tired, so I put Baby K on the swing for a bit before his second nap.

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3pm- Baby K wakes up from his second nap and I change his diaper.  At this point, I’m annoyed with the selfie stick, and I just want to get rid of it and scrap the project!2016-03-17 14.58.16.jpg

3:15pm

Hmm the half the day is barely over and I have officially given up on using the selfie stick. This is the last photo of the day!2016-03-17 15.12.07.jpg

My Reflections:

At first I thought this selfie-project would be a meaningful way to document my day.  However, it was actually very tedious and when I was trying to multi-task with an impatient baby, I didn’t always have my phone beside me.  It was also the hardest thing having the baby in one hand, and a long extended selfie-stick in the other… Overall, I could say some of these photos weren’t even that authentic because I had to retake some several times!

So in conclusion, a phone camera and a selfie-stick cannot possibly capture all the fun yet challenging moments of a mom with her baby.  Pictures are not always worth a thousand words.  The only way to really experience how hectic it is to take care of baby is to experience it yourself as a parent.

Using iMovie split-screen feature to present two different view points

The Grade 4 students will be working on a discussion text for their next writing genre. As their ICT teacher, I wanted to incorporate some simple movie making techniques with this unit.

This iMovie project will encourage students to pay attention to the purpose and structure of the discussion text. Students will be asked to create an iMovie video on: Should YouTube be used in school?

When planning for this project, I thought what better way for students to present different viewpoints using iMovie’s split screen effect!

I started by writing a script:

YouTube script

Then, I worked on the video using iMovie.  Here is what the final project should look like (although students are creating a simpler version of this)

To get the class started, I showed them a sample video on a different topic:

Should students be encouraged to read e-books at school?

As you can see, I’ve SIMPLIFIED the process in the second video.  The steps for the iMovie are actually not that complicated, as long as students write their script, and follow step-by-step instructions.  Below are the resources that I created, as well as a tutorial video.

Template

Script Template

Here is my step-by-step tutorial video:

Finally, incorporating the movie-making process into the writing unit helps writers engage or bring out creativity beyond traditional literacy.  Encouraging students to write a simple script and asking them to elaborate on their ideas while recording their movie will add another important dimension to their learning.